Destination Malta: open for business
Malta’s recently-elected Prime Minister Joseph Muscat talks about his vision for the country’s future.
“I don’t want Malta to be a secondary option. We want Malta to be firmly on the radar of investors worldwide.” — Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta
Malta, one of the 10 smallest sovereign states in the world, enjoys a strategic position at the heart of the Mediterranean.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat possesses a clear vision for the future of his country. “We want Malta to be known in Europe, and the world, as a place where one can do business. Here, investors can operate without losing time and find a flexible environment, with regulators at arm’s length who are willing to listen, and policy-makers who are fast enough to try to anticipate the market’s needs. This leads to improvements in standards of living for citizens.”
Muscat is prioritizing energy sector investment and reform to address escalating costs. “Our energy strategy will lead over a two-year period to a 25% decrease in energy prices as we transition from oil to gas based electricity production. This will aid businesses and households, leading to more disposable income.”
The Maltese advantage
Several factors work to the country’s advantage:
- Robust export growth and a deficit under control
- Unemployment rate about half that of the Eurozone
- Debt as a proportion of GDP below the Eurozone average
- Highly-capitalized and profitable domestic banks, funded mainly from the domestic retail deposit market
In addition, Maltese Treasury bonds tend to be purchased locally, reducing the risk of speculative investors influencing price movements.
“We are careful in the way we face challenges,” confirms Muscat. “We’re open for business — but we’re open for the right type of businesses. We’re not in it for the quick buck.”
Tourism and merchant shipping are key industries for the Maltese Islands, but Muscat believes there is scope to do more in servicing and ship management.
Despite a resilient economy, Malta faces certain issues. Growth slowed to about 1.0% in 2012 and remains below potential. It also faces challenges around the sustainability of its public finances in view of the budgetary impact of its ageing population, which is projected to exceed the EU average.
Here, speed is Muscat’s ally. “We have a swift legislative process and, as Prime Minister, you can take the decisions and they are implemented. It’s also important to remember that the private sector doesn’t need any sort of government involvement. It just needs vision and a can-do attitude.”
“We want companies around the world to automatically think of us. Most who end up doing business in Malta produce extremely good testimonials about our country. I don’t want Malta to be a secondary option. We want Malta to be firmly on the radar of investors worldwide.”